It Takes 2, Baby!? Or, What Happens When Only One Person Wants the Divorce?

It Takes 2, Baby!? Or, What Happens When Only One Person Wants the Divorce?

{6:48 minutes to read} In New Jersey, divorce requires only one willing party. So what about the other party? The one who doesn’t want the divorce? And how can this work in mediation?

Mediation is sometimes believed to be an alternative only when both parties want divorce. I would suggest that mediation is still the best alternative, even for the party who doesn’t want to end the marriage.

Because a divorce will occur, with or without the consent of the non-moving party, the question becomes not whether there will be a divorce but how it will be reached. Mediation is always the better process, but perhaps even more so for the one who hasn’t had the opportunity to initiate the divorce.

In this situation, mediation has the potential for sensitivity to such issues as:

  • How can a reluctant participant be helped to face the inevitable and unwanted change?
  • How can the situation be normalized, understood and processed when its very nature is fraught with pitfalls of disempowerment and potential humiliations?

First, parties are helped to appreciate the situation as quite customary. Rarely are two people on the same emotional page at the same time. Usually, divorcing couples are “emotionally staggered,” and often this has more to do with individual thresholds for given situations. Both people are unhappy, but only one person’s unhappiness barometer has exploded.

People divorce because one or both parties are not thriving in the current situation. A therapist friend of mine once said, “If a relationship isn’t working for one person, it’s not working.” That means no matter how much one person wants the relationship, if their partner doesn’t, neither person is in a workable relationship. More about this in a moment.

In Inter-Relational Focusing, one branch of Focusing, it is specified that the intent of any interaction is to improve the lives of its participants. Relationships are to move life forward. They’re not, as commonly believed, to scoop out the other’s proverbial insides like spaghetti squash and ring them out to meet one’s own needs. There is the me, the you, and the what’s between us. Only the last part is the relationship.

By definition, if one party wants to continue the relationship in spite of the knowledge that the other person needs to leave it, she is not behaving congruently with a loving partnership. A loving partnership has room for both people’s needs. It respects the other, even when the other’s wants diverge from one’s own. In a healthy relationship, both participants must be unwilling to compromise the well-being of the other.

But a marriage is not necessarily a relationship, just as a romantic or loving relationship doesn’t necessarily constitute a marriage. It’s often helpful to unpack these things in order to identify what’s actually wanted. Often marriages develop into organizations, with friends and second homes, children and activities, a structure that provides comfort and stability, identity and belonging. These are important to almost everyone, but they can be distinct from the actual relationship between husband and wife.

Modern marriages in this country are no longer arranged, but they often morph into “arrangements.” In divorce mediation, when one spouse doesn’t want the divorce, it’s helpful to know why. Really, why – that is, what they are holding on to, and what they are most afraid to lose. It’s almost never the loving companionship of their spouse.

Sometimes they are wanting some aspect that the marriage provided, but that is not necessarily about the other person. Sometimes the heartbreak one thinks he is experiencing has little to do with the relationship, but more to do with other aspects of married life.

This is important, because what’s really valued and needed can be both addressed in mediation and worked towards after the divorce. The divorce itself, while still unwanted, can be understood as less of a total loss of everything. Much of what feels threatened by the divorce can be supported and maintained.

Some examples from mediation:

  • A parent who equates divorce with “losing his family” is helped to understand that his imagined version is incommensurable with the reality that could have him sharing physical custody equally and spending time with his children virtually daily.
  • A spouse who associates divorce with imminent poverty is helped when she learns that appropriate financial support will afford her a standard of living reasonably comparable to what she currently experiences.

Recently, I asked a client who absolutely did not want his marriage to end, this: “If it wasn’t a marriage, if you were just in a relationship, with no financial implication, would you fight this hard to keep it together?” Without hesitation, almost as if the question was absurd, he cried, “No, absolutely not.” Sometimes the attachment is not to the other but to what has been created during the time spent and in cooperation with the other.

Identifying what is hard to relinquish reveals what is valued and what can be worked with and carried forward into the next chapter of life. Loss is implicit in divorce. In fact, loss is implicit in life. Clarifying what we are actually losing can help us regain a foothold and focus our energies on what we can control and how we intend to shape our lives going forward.

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

How to Save Money and Affirm Life by Mediating Your Divorce

How to Save Money and Affirm Life by Mediating Your Divorce | Rachel Alexander{4:24 minutes to read} No one wants to spend more money than absolutely necessary on their divorce. No one has a divorce account. There is no particular tax benefit or refund for fees spent on divorce.

My clients represent a whole range of economic resources, but no matter what their financial situation, they do not want [or need] to spend money unnecessarily on their divorce. So, I want to invite you, who are thinking about divorce, to give some careful thought to where you want to invest your resources:

Are you willing to set aside $40,000 or $50,000 each to pursue an adversarial process?

If you could finalize your divorce for under $10,000, are there things you would do that could bring delight?

Could that money be used for something restorative or rejuvenating, once the divorce process is complete?

What could be done with an extra $20,000-$40,000 to spend? Pursuing the adversarial process can easily cost that much and more. Instead of wasting money on litigation, how about:

  • Spending a week in Nantucket;
  • Paying off credit-card debt;
  • Paying for summer camp for the next few summers;
  • Plumping up college savings;
  • Taking the kids apple picking this fall and letting them pick too many apples, without protest;
  • Getting a massage once a month;
  • Saying “yes” more often to the children, and yourself, for small indulgences;
  • Eating out one extra night a month;
  • Saving the whales, or helping to anyway;
  • Treating an elderly relative to his plane ticket to visit you;
  • Keeping the domestic help you would otherwise be giving up;
  • Keeping your gym membership;
  • Taking a vacation with friends;
  • Going to that spa or baseball camp or yoga retreat on your wish list;
  • Creating an account for those “incidental” expenses that always arise and cause stress— soccer fees, hotel rooms, uniforms for cheerleading, party dresses, interview clothes, birthday party gifts—and use its existence to reduce your anxiety over money.

The idea is to link up that game of what would you do if you had x amount of found money with saving money in your divorce.

No one (apart from a sadist) would pay $40,000 for a stressful, painful, acrimonious, protracted, loss-of-control, bilious experience. No one would knowingly pay to have pain, drain their family resources—both financially and emotionally—and incur stress and debt that bleeds into every area of life, at least for a time.

Managing the conflict of divorce through mediation substantially reduces angst and cost. Mediation simultaneously increases possibilities for creative resolutions while addressing and managing sources of stress. This is good for the family and good for the pocketbook.

Spending money can be a pleasure, not a trauma. When families spend money wisely—in order to save money—they maintain more control of their lives.

You are invited to start thinking about what money can be happily used for. Having several thousand dollars could really be a pleasure, and could, if it’s used thoughtfully, be life-enhancing. The idea is to use money for life affirming rather than life draining endeavors. Having a bit of extra money post-divorce is antidotal for the money-fear that tends to follow a divorce.

Divorce or no, dream a little bit about what would be happy and fulfilling. Save your money by avoiding an adversarial process. Approach your divorce laparoscopically, where you use funds judiciously to further resolution. Put the savings toward something that brings peace, joy, and, above all, happiness.

Rachel Alexander

Rachel Alexander
Alexander Mediation Group
119 West Valley Brook Rd
Califon, NJ 07830
(908) 832-2305

Alimony Ain’t Easy!

{8:18 minutes to read} AAlimony Ain’t Easy! by Rachel Alexanders a divorce mediator and family law attorney, I am often asked, “What’s the formula to calculate alimony?” In New Jersey, there is none. We do have a new alimony reform law adopted in September 2014, about which there has been (and continues to be) a lot of confusion. This blog post looks at the current factors used to determine alimony.

Continue reading Alimony Ain’t Easy!

A healthy approach to creating a Post-Divorce Budget

Budgeting – the very mention of it – sends many people into something like anaphylactic shock.  They stop breathing, rouge, and stare straight ahead, into the space where the abyss resides. There is something paralyzing, overwhelming and claustrophobic about the notion of being constrained by rules and limitations around spending.  Feelings of deprivation may be aroused.  Fear of lack, loss and the unknown can also be triggered.  

One of the essential parts of divorce is budgeting.  In order to arrive at the terms for settlement, clients must pull together their current marital budget as well as their anticipated post-divorce living expenses.  A post-divorce budget provides important data of how the parties lived together and what will be needed to live separately.

In reviewing the actual definition of the word “budget” I looked at its synonyms. Most of the words that can stand in for budget have to do with cost-cutting and imply less quality, such as cheap, bargain-basement, low-end, inexpensive, dirt cheap, and perhaps best of all, el cheapo. What’s better than dressing up something unwanted in a foreign sounding cloak?

Furthermore, our common associations with the word budget have to do with such concepts like a 50 million dollar film budget or national budget – both of which have an unreal and an obtuse quality for most of us.

It’s no wonder we struggle to warm up to this word with its less-than, negative and vague connotations, particularly when it comes to the anticipation of a divorce budget. So let’s refrain. Because language is important when looking to relate to things we’d rather avoid, we need as much help as possible.  If we introduce the notion of something more appealing, that invites a heightened sense of control and a movement towards what’s wanted, perhaps that would help.  

Instead of budgeting what about estate management or financial governance? Try those on and see how they feel. Try out a few of your own. Situate yourself in a space of what is wanted and how you’d like to shape your relationship with your finances to create a satisfying and long term alliance.

Recently I met with Dan Jago, a financial planner at Main Street Wealth Management in Bedminster/Bernardsville, NJ.  He works primarily with 30 and 40-somethings who are often brand new to financial planning. Dan initiates what is often their first conversation around budgeting, or if you prefer – financial governance – and he speaks to how he approaches it in a fresh and helpful manner which I appreciate. What follows is an outline of how people might begin this conversation (or inner dialogue) around this important topic, particularly regarding a divorce budget. I have integrated Dan’s input with my own.

What’s Happening? (Preparing for a post-divorce budget)

First, from a non-judgmental and non-critical stance, without an obligation to change a thing, take a look at what you are currently doing around money. What are your spending habits? Are you at Starbucks everyday? Do you pay bills online? Use auto-deposit for your paychecks?  Mostly use cash? Rely on one or several credit cards?  With a guide such as Dan, you can evaluate current spending patterns and habits and formulate your post-divorce budget.

Just as you would make someone’s acquaintance with politeness and curiosity, this is how I invite you to approach your current spending. Except in the Wild West of old, we typically don’t meet others with guns blazing, ready for a showdown. Approach you current spending as you would a potential long-term, dear friend. Softly.

What Would You Like To Be Happening?

When it comes to divorce, and establishing your current and post-divorce budget, it is easy to hone in on what’s wrong with what you’re doing, (and by implication, what’s wrong with you).  Focus instead on what you want to create.  

By shifting in this way, you involve a different part of your brain – a visionary part – which has the power to inspire.  Take some time to dream.  Helpful questions might include:  What would it take for you to feel great about money?  To feel secure?  To feel content with your handling of your finances?  What would you like to own, pay off, do, be able to give to your children, family, friends, community, etc.?  What would you like to know for certain?  How will your post-divorce budget be different from your current financial governance when it’s complete?

Once you have tapped into what you’d like, not only can dollars enter the equation, but so can current practices.  Within the benevolent, sunny environment formed by focusing on what’s wanted, we are more equipped to turn to current habits and analyze what can be modified and built in order to bring forward what is desired.  A plan is determined and set in motion.  

Dan and I talked about a few concrete examples.  Take Bob.  Perhaps part of Bob’s plan is to save an additional $100 per month in his post-divorce budget so he can rent a ski house for a week in the winter.  By reviewing Bob’s current habits, Dan and Bob identified that Bob stops in Starbucks every morning on his way to work, spending approximately $25 weekly on coffee concoctions.  Bob enjoys the whole ritual of stopping there – it’s something that get’s him out of bed and on the road.  So rather than asking that Bob forsake Starbucks and his weekday ritual, we might ask if Bob would be willing to switch some of the days out for less elaborate and costly coffee options.  Maybe Mondays are the days when Bob orders his favorite drink.  In consideration of his post-divorce budget and savings goal on Tuesday-Thursday he orders regular coffee, saving close to $15 per week simply by making this cost conscious modification.

This reasonably minor behavioral modification frees $64.50 per month, and gets Bob substantially toward his divorce budget and savings goal.  He needs to find another $35.50 to reach the $100 goal.   

Bob eats all of his lunches in the work cafeteria to build relationships with colleagues and enjoy the camaraderie of his mates.  Although the cafeteria is subsidized, he spends an average of $8 per day on lunch.  By simply carrying a water bottle and filling it at home and from the office water cooler, Bob can cut his weekly beverage costs of $8 per week, reducing his beverage spending by another $34.40, giving him $98.90 in his post-divorce budget (just $1.10 away from his goal).  

What’s important about these modifications is that Bob kept the parts of his habits that served him and that he enjoyed and counted on.  The changes he made didn’t change the substantive nature of his habits and supported all the structural and social benefits he currently enjoys within his post-divorce budget.  

Bob wasn’t told to give up Starbucks or start eating at his desk.  Such draconian measures were unnecessary to accomplish his goal.  They would have felt more punishing than progressive.  Once this is set in place, Bob arranges to have the additional $100 transferred directly from his automatic deposit into his savings or investment account.  He doesn’t need to worry about it again, and his post-divorce budget supports his new goal.  Now when Bob sips from his water bottle, he sometimes has an additional sense of pride and security that his daily actions are providing for his future.  

Control – A Different Approach

By setting goals with a financial advisor for your post-divorce budget, and then refining your day-to-day habits to further those goals, you gain a sense of power over your current finances and future financial life.

When a financial planner focuses on budgeting, you are a participant, not a passive member in the process.  In my experience, many financial professionals do not spend enough time working with clients’ spending habits, as they are focused on investment strategy rather than creating a necessary budget or post-divorce budget.  Much about investing is confusing and overwhelming, particularly for people new to finance, and that can cause the relinquishing of control in favor of sheer hope that the person we’ve selected to manage our money is competent, at least.  This has the same feel of riding a rollercoaster, eyes closed, praying the operator is sober and awake.  No wonder we have anxiety around money and investing, and doubly so when the complexities of divorce are added to the mix!  Developing an understanding of investing and the market is a significant undertaking, and not the easiest jumping off point for many of us.

Conversely, making a budget is a more straight-forward and plausible entry point in working with a professional.  By entering a discovery phase of evaluating your current practices, you ally with your financial professional.  Through actively aligning your daily life with your financial goals, you partner with your planner.  

Once you begin to turn towards your finances, even in a small way, you will set in motion something with wings.  This something, as you attend to it, will grow stronger and larger and ultimately take flight.

This blog was written with thanks to Dan J. Jago, AIF®, whose ideas and input were incorporated throughout.  Dan can be reached at or (908) 719-8700.  His website is


Reentering The Workforce – Part 2

Reentering-the-workforce-pt-2-dplic-300x300In the last blog, we looked at re-entering the workforce with a focus on work being an articulation of Self. If we expand this view to include not only what one wants to contribute or feels called upon to express, but what one wants to experience and enjoy, we broaden our notion of what work can help us access.

That is, getting a job because you need to go back to work now, is hardly incentivizing. It can be helpful to focus on what the end goals of working are.

Goals may include:

  • Freedom – I want to expand my universe and have options that would be unavailable to me if I remain working within the home or financially dependent on another.
  • Social Opportunities  – I’d love to meet others engaged in productive endeavors.
  • Growth -Introducing experiences and exploring new environments could provide the opportunity to learn more about others and also oneself – observing how one resonates or rejects different stimuli can be expansive and introspective at once.
  • Financial Enrichment -I want to be able to put aside $4,000, because I really want to take that trip I’ve been thinking about. More specifically, working out a budget based on what is desired(rather than solely on what is needed) can be useful in focusing on what kind of income and thus job is needed, and what may be helpful on a temporary basis.

God is in the details.*

The power of a clearly defined aim is paramount. If I know I need $1500 within six weeks in order to pay my share of a beach house rental at the shore in August, I may be willing to consider multiple opportunities to earn this amount, including things I would never envision myself doing for an extended period (perhaps babysitting, dog walking, filling in for someone at the farmer’s market, etc.)

Without a clear incentive, I may scoff at the very notion of doing these tasks and inadvertently imagine that if I engage in such employment I have automatically become a professional dog walker, babysitter or farmer’s market clerk. Over-identifying with employment can be avoided by creating goals that are more important than the tasks required to reach them.

I have a dear friend who has been grappling with being unemployed since October. He is so entrenched in the analysis of the meaning of the work he chooses to do at this stage of his life and how that reflects on him, that he has done virtually nothing to secure any temporary work whatsoever.

It would be considerably liberating if he would:

  1. Distinguish between his value and his work.
  2. Embrace the notion that he can take a particular job without adopting it as his identity, or committing to performing it for the remainder of his life

He need not complete his analysis regarding the perfect employment before taking some helpful action. For example, taking a temporary job to generate a bit of income may improve the situation without fully resolving it. In fact, taking any position, however imperfect, may provide important data and avail him of opportunities inaccessible if he resides solely in his own head!

I suggest that a less paralyzing approach can be this: designing your goals first, and then implementing employment as a means of accomplishing those goals. In this way, work of any and every kind can serve in furtherance and support of your well-being and the creation of the life you desire.

*Attributed to either architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1886-1969), art historian Aby Warburg (1866-1929), or author Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880).

Reentering The Workforce

Reentering-the-Workforce-DPLIC-300x221Divorce is such a troublemaker because it brings up so many troublesome life issues. One of them is work. Work carries with it meaning replete with status, value, identity, maturity, self-reliance, our relationship to the outside world and how others relate to us.

Amidst the other complex issues surrounding divorce, re-evaluating one’s work-life may present yet another challenge that was not asked for. What’s more, financial pressure usually dictates these next steps rather than pure desire or curiosity. What under normal circumstances may feel stressful, can now feel terrifying.

But it is not just about getting a job. It’s about posing a lot of profound questions like:

  1. Who am I?
  2. What do I want to do?
  3. Can I take care of myself?

Prior to attending law school, I went to career services at my undergraduate college to research whether I was a good candidate for law school and the legal profession. At that point I was envisioning a career like a jello mold one pours oneself into in order to take on a specific shape.

The woman at career services administered a test to evaluate suitability in this field. What was more influential than the actual test results was the discussion I had with her afterwards. The advice she rendered shifted my paradigm about careers forever. She said it is not about fitting yourself into a career, it is about your voice and what education and experiences you need in order to fully express it. This inverted my understanding of where I needed to be looking for information regarding what I needed to do.

I began to consider the effect I wanted to have with my life, and began viewing work as one of the vehicles for accomplishing this. Rather than defining myself by identifying with a particular career, my task wasfirst to define myself and then make employment and educational choices aligned with that.

What in you calls for expression? Even asking that question is self-honoring, placing you in command of your future. What flows from this inquiry will supply a direction that can be operationalized into next steps, whether that is returning to obtain a degree, taking a part-time position to build experience, or going to the library to do research. As your vision takes shape, be prepared to modify your course and refine earlier choices – this is part of designing your work life so it continues to reflect your expression and intended contribution.  While this may be no small task, I submit that this is the right task.

Evaluating one’s work identity at a later stage in life is challenging.  It may be normalizing to be reminded that many of us, for a variety of reasons, particularly in today’s volatile economic environment, are in the same boat – beginning new careers, investing in self-inquiry.

Approaching work in a more personal way can restore a much needed internal nucleus of control.

So what if you aren’t terribly career minded? How do you approach reentering the job market then? More about that in an upcoming blog.

If Divorce Is In The Future, What Documents Do You Need And Why?

ClaudiaMulti colored File Folders Mott is a Certified Financial Planner® with a specialty in divorce. We have invited her to act as a contributing blogger to our post. In her first guest blog she addresses which financial documents are needed when preparing to go through a divorce, and why.

If Divorce is in the Future, What Documents Do You Need and Why?
By Claudia Mott

Child support, alimony, equitable distribution; these are a few of the key financial issues addressed in many divorce cases. But underlying all of these topics is the need for accurate and comprehensive information about the family’s financial life. A couple is encouraged to create a detailed summary of their joint lifestyle, as well as budgets for each party post-divorce. The starting points? A balance sheet listing all of their assets and liabilities and a detailed living expense summary. Determine what statements will be needed by creating an inventory list for the items on the balance sheet.

Assets include:

  • Value of the home (provided there is equity)
  • Bank, investment and retirement accounts
  • Personal property such as automobiles
  • Art or other collectibles
  • Cash value of life insurance

Liabilities include outstanding balances on:

  • Mortgages
  • Credit cards
  • All forms of loans (student, auto, personal)

The most recent statements for all of these items should be used to obtain a current value, but more updated copies may be necessary once a final valuation date is determined.

The living expense summary should be created to reflect the family’s lifestyle for one year. The Case Information Statement (CIS) located on the website includes a comprehensive breakdown of costs for housing, transportation, medical and personal expenses. One year’s statements from banks, credit cards and loans are required to do an accurate and thorough computation of a family’s lifestyle. Downloading statements and aggregating them in a spreadsheet or software package like Quicken can make creating the living expense summary easier. There are also online tools such as which categorize and summarize spending as well.

Also important to collect: Information on the family’s different sources of income. In addition to previous tax returns, pay stubs and W-2s, it may be necessary to provide documents detailing rental income, outside business interests, K-1s and unearned income from investments.

A copy of each spouse’s credit report is essential to ensure that statements for all open accounts have been provided. A credit report provides a listing of all bank, loan and credit card accounts regardless of whether they are held individually or jointly.

Setting up a simple filing system using an accordion file or colored file folders can make the process of managing all of these statements and documents much easier.

Divorce is an emotional process. By taking the time to organize your documents and create an accurate picture of your family’s financial life, it will be easier to make important financial decisions with confidence, and avoid costly mistakes.
Screen-Shot-2014-01-03-at-7.25.32-AMClaudia E. Mott, CFP®, CDFA™
Certified Financial Planner®
Certified Divorce Financial Analyst
Click here to read Claudia Mott’s Bio
For information on or to join our Support Group, click here.

Your Divorce And Your Health [Insurance]

Health care coverage – or lack thereof – may be one of the most daunting issues Health insurance.facing divorcing couples. Fortunately, this is an area where facts diminish fear. This is why I have co-authored this article with health care expert Derek Spencer.

The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is based on a federal law that gives workers and their families who lose their health benefits the right to choose to continue group health benefits provided by their group health plan for limited periods of time. Under certain circumstances called “qualifying events,” such as divorce, someone can maintain his or her health insurance coverage through an employer-based plan without direct affiliation with that employer. In the case of divorce, the “qualified beneficiary” (i.e. the non-employee spouse), can maintain health coverage through an ex-spouse’s (i.e. “direct beneficiary”) health insurance plan at the ex’s place of work.

There are two sets of laws that govern the rules of continuation of coverage: Federal COBRA and New Jersey State Continuation. Federal COBRA governs continuation of coverage for employers with 20 or more employees, while New Jersey State Continuation covers employers with less than 20 employees. Fortunately, both sets of laws are similar.

In order to avail yourself of this benefit, it is critical that you report the qualifying event such as a divorce, to your Human Resources and/or the plan administrator, within 60 days of when the Judgment of Divorce is granted. Once informed, the Human Resources Dept or plan administrator will send a notice to the qualified beneficiary within 14 days. Upon receipt and careful review of the notice, the qualified beneficiary may wish to contact their mediator, attorney, or other trusted professional for assistance in reviewing the form(s) and taking the required follow-up actions. A person has 30 days in which to secure NJ state continuation, or 60 days to secure Federal (i.e. COBRA) continuation. Timing is critical.

You can inadvertently waive your rights to coverage if you do not adhere to the strict time frame allocated.

Currently both Federal COBRA and New Jersey State Continuation allow an individual to keep health insurance coverage through an ex-spouse’s policy at work for up to 36 months (three years). Keep in mind that this individual will be responsible for up to 102% of the insurance premium for his or her coverage. If this spouse is also responsible for covering any children, the premium payments can increase substantially. Many times this cost is the determining factor in whether a continuation of coverage situation occurs or not. If the cost is too high, an individual may choose to explore alternatives. A health insurance professional is a great resource in examining options and assisting in comparing different plans. While health insurance through an employer still tends to be the most affordable and comprehensive option, when that is not available, plans for individuals, families and groups can be purchased directly through many insurance companies.

Note: Failure to report your divorce to the insurance company in an effort to maintain the marital coverage is considered insurance fraud.

This is a complex and confusing issue. Don’t let your lack of knowledge or discomfort with the subject matter, inhibit you from taking timely action. As always, while moving through this process, seek help early and often.

Where Is The Equitable In Equitable Distribution? Part 3

A divorce is not going to make whole what you didn’t resolve in thethree women as a symbol of time: past, present and future marriage. You are ending the marriage that you had, not the marriage you shouldhave had. And herein lies the opportunity, for any time we address “life on life’s terms” and make decisions accordingly, we are orienting ourselves to what is. Working with what is, is the only way to create meaningful, sustainable change – to shape a life reflecting what you ultimately want. There is freedom to look honestly at what didn’t work and choose to do things differently – to line things up with your values and preferences.

Eliminate criticism and judgment. Examine the facts. This creates the possibility for creative decision making and skillful action.

Eckhart Tolle, in his book A New Earth says, and I paraphrase, “The present moment is all we have. Fortunately, it’s also all we need.”Essentially, all that is curative can take place in this very moment. The past doesn’t get fixed up in the past – no matter how much time or energy we spend revisiting it, shaking the dust from it, rearranging and examining it – we are still completely powerless over it. Our power is in the present. So the past, whatever it involved, created certain realities that are alive in the present. It also created feelings that are equally alive in the now.

What do we do with the unfairness that developed in the marriage or is a result of the divorce? How do we resolve issues hitherto unresolveable? We can address all of this by acknowledging what is, the feelings surrounding what is, and the current needs resulting from those facts and feelings. We can get our needs heard and often met. And that is healing. “When people get what they need, they heal,” said a wonderful therapist colleague. A famous line from a play says, reflecting on an unmet childhood wish, “I don’t want it now, I want it then.”

Ahhhh, but then is no more. We can’t have it then, but we can address the feelings of loss, sorrow, and anger that we have now. We can meet those feelings in ways they weren’t met in the past. We can meet them with compassion, gentleness and grace. We can begin to investigate what we need and begin to give ourselves just that. We can’t get it fixed up for back then or redo it so we’ll feel differently now. We can greet ourselves, one another, and our current reality (which was likely created by doing our best with what we had available at the time) and we can simply ask: how do I feel and what do I need?

Now is the time to practice kindness and compassion towards yourself and fully inhabit the present. Beating ourselves up gives us a false sense that we are actually doing something, but in reality it is diverting energy that could otherwise be used constructively.

Begin with this gentle self-inquiry:

  • What feelings am I experiencing now as a result of what happened during my marriage?
  • What can I do to care for myself and the uncomfortable feelings I’m experiencing?
  • What kinds of support do I need now?

Where Is The Equitable in Equitable Distribution? Part 2

In Part 1, we looked at the legal treatment of marriage as an unemotional divorcefinancial partnership. This is intrinsically problematic for those facing divorce, as divorce is inherently emotional. When clients are seeking to have emotional equity manifest in their financial settlement, they will likely be frustrated and disappointed.

In the marital partnership, each party typically contributed in various ways, with the idea that they were investing in a particular future together. When the prospect of that future is removed, previous investments, choices, and sacrifices may suddenly seem foolish.

  • Foregoing a career-building position in order to remain home, raise children and support a spouse’s career looks one way when you are planning to share the financial benefits you encouraged your spouse to obtain. Faced with supporting yourself after ten years out of the work place, with no prior intention of returning, and without the benefit of the security you thought you were building – is a different thing altogether.

  • Working two jobs so your wife can remain home and raise your children so you can collectively benefit from the increased income while creating a homelife you relish looks one way when you are planning to raise the children into young adulthood together, sharing the fruits of your collective labor. It looks quite different when you are faced with living apart from your family, being required to work and produce the same level of income you previously did, and being responsible for supporting a spouse who didn’t work because of the original bargain you struck when planning the future that is now being abandoned.

There are so many levels of unfairness intrinsic in dismantling a marriage. Essentially, the decision to divorce invites a reevaluation of earlier choices with a tendency towards regret.

  • “I certainly wouldn’t have supported you if I thought I’d end up being required to pay you alimony.”

  • “I never would have stopped working at the height of my career if I thought I’d be solely responsible for my financial needs again at age 48, after decades out of the work force.”

We depend on one another and make choices accordingly, and then find what we depended upon has changed. This is true in all areas of life, not only in divorce. We are dynamic beings in an inconsistent world and much is beyond our control. We make the best decisions we are equipped to make in the specific moment, with limited knowledge and foresight. The future is unknown and uncertain for us all. Moving forward, we may begin making choices that are both loving and self protective.

How would considering your well being and security affect your current decision making style?